How To Tell If A Wall Is Load Bearing

Open floor plans are all rage these days and many home-remodel television programs leading viewers to believe that most any wall can be “knocked out.” While it seems like home repairmen on these shows targeting random walls for demolition, the reality is that many walls, especially in older homes, are load bearing. In order to reduce the likelihood of severe damage to a house due to an ill-advised demolition, special precautions should be taken to confirm that a wall is not load bearing. In this piece, we’ll show you how to tell if a wall is load bearing. (Disclaimer: This article is not meant to replace the advice of a structural engineering or demolition professional.)

Though you may have possible renovation plans for your home or a house you want to buy, the structural integrity of a house is much more important than an open concept layout. Quick tricks will not suffice in order to determine if a wall is load bearing. What are some of the first areas to look at to tell if a wall is load bearing?

Down Low: Look For Load Bearing Beams In The Basements & Foundations
Any quest to determine if a wall is load bearing starts in the lowest part of the home. Hop into the house’s basement or find the slab. Keep an eye peeled for the beams that penetrate into the concrete foundation of the house. Any demolitions targeting any beams that make their way into the foundation are extremely ill-advised. If you need help trying to determine if a home’s beams penetrate into the foundation, look to the exterior walls’ beams that definitely will. If the beam placement looks similar elsewhere, you’re more than likely looking at a load-bearing beam.

Up Top: Find Load Bearing Beams In Walls & Attics
Because most load-bearing beams located within walls, it can be tricky for the average person to find them. A housing construction or demolition professional can definitely help you find these beams located inside walls. A way to quickly identify load bearing walls is to head up into the attic of the home. Because the inside of most attics are “unfinished” in that the frame of the house is exposed, load-bearing walls are more easily identified by spotting the load-bearing beams that accompany them.

Identify The Joist-To-Stud Relationship
Another clear indicator of a load-bearing wall is to follow the wall stud upwards into the attic and see if it aligns with the joist — the main beam running horizontally over a room or under the floor. If the horizontal joists are not lining up with the vertical stud of a wall, the stud is probably not supporting any weight. If the vertical stud aligns with the horizontal joist, there is a good chance that you’re looking at a wall that is load bearing.

It should be noted that this article should only be used to get a conceptual idea of which walls may be load-bearing. The professional advice of an experienced and certified construction or demolition expert should be obtained before any walls are removed.